Five years ago today the most destructive tornado in the city's history tore through Clovis, causing millions of dollars in damage and forever changing lives across much of eastern New Mexico.
The storm spawning the twister skipped across the High Plains, sending residents running for cover in Dora, Elida, Farwell and Texico, dropping tornados on Grande Vista dairy near Portales and flattening 30 homes the small town of Logan in Quay County.
In Clovis, two people died from injuries suffered during the twister. Another 35 were injured and 55 homes were destroyed, leveled or blown to splinters by winds churning in excess of 113 mph.
The official toll in dollars is estimated at $8 million. The actual cost immeasurable in peace of mind.
The storm and its intensity may have forever destroyed a complacency about tornados typical in the region at the time. Conventional thinking was while the area may sit on the edge of Tornado Alley, it was hardly a precarious perch. Everybody knew or assumed that twisters skipped over Clovis in their destructive route to places like Texas and Oklahoma.
"Any time you have any kind of disaster like that, it kind of reminds people it can happen to us," said Clovis and Curry County Emergency Planning Director Ken De Los Santos. "That storm, we knew it was coming. We had been following it all day."
Lessons learned from the blow were many, according to De Los Santos and his counterparts in Roosevelt and Quay counties. Tops among them have been efforts to upgrade communications systems and working to provided backup systems for emergency power.
In Clovis, warning sirens placed around the city are dedicated to tornado alerts only. The city and county are also part of an emergency alert system that interrupts cable, television and radio programming when a storm is threatening.
Weather information is posted to the city's website and De Los Santos and his crew have also developed text and email alerts available to anyone requesting them.
Portales and Roosevelt County Emergency Planning Director Keith Wattenbarger said the challenge has been to develop a variety of information systems that keep residents and first responders informed. Wattenbarger said a new dispatch system in Portales now features Skype capability and a ham or shortwave radio system. Residents can also sign up for email and text alerts on the city's website.
Tucumcari's Emergency Planning Director Scot Jaynes said the city and Quay County are part of a sophisticated Everbridge Emergency Notification system that went online in January.
Jaynes said the system was tested during wildfires in California, where thousands of residents were alerted within minutes.
Jaynes said in the event of a storm or other disaster, the Everbridge system isolates a geographic area and sends emergency notifications by voicemail, email, text message, pager and fax. Residents can sign up through the city's website.
"We have lots of ways to notify," said De Los Santos, "and the big thing is ... the thing we tell people is when you get up in the morning, turn on the television or radio first thing and find out what's going on."
Clovis tornado by the numbers:
20 — Million pounds of debris from the tornado taken to the Clovis landfill
35 — Patients treated at Plains Regional Medical Center for tornado-related injuries. Four were admitted and two later died.
55 — Homes destroyed
160 — People sheltered in hotels after the tornado
500 — Estimated number of homes and businesses affected by the tornado
$7 to $8 million — Cash payouts to victims by federal, state and local agencies and private insurance.
F2 (wind speeds greater than 113 mph) tornadoes in Curry County:
• June 10, 1932
• Sept. 17, 1944
• May 24, 1957
• June 11, 1964
• March 23, 2007
Source: Clovis and Curry County Emergency Planning Director Ken De Los Santos